The Go-To Guide: Explore 22 of the Best Outdoor Playgrounds in Central Ohio
These family-favorite spots offer a variety of amenities for kids of all ages and abilities.
Sometimes, kids just need a place to blow off some steam. When they’ve been cooped up indoors or are feeling trapped by e-learning, it might be time for a change of scenery.
Central Ohio is fortunate to have an abundance of places where kids (and adults) can play outside. Whether you’re looking for traditional swings and slides or natural play areas, there are plenty of choices—whether you want to stick close to home or explore something new.
To provide a bit of inspiration, we’ve compiled this list of some of the region’s best-loved outdoor playgrounds. All of these recommended spots are in public parks; most are owned either by Metro Parks or local municipalities. Many have ADA-accessible features. Since these venues are open year-round, winter amenities are listed where available.
Keep in mind that some locations may have fluctuating restrictions or limits due to the COVD-19 pandemic, so check out the websites before you go.
To suggest a destination that we should consider adding to our list, send an email to email@example.com.
Alum Creek Park North
221 W. Main St., Westerville; 614-901-6500; parks.westerville.org
This space boasts all the charm of a small-town park but is sneaky-scenic, courtesy of the creek that meanders through the property. Dedicated playgrounds suitable for younger and older children, including a spiderweb climbing feature and an accessible electronic play structure, are accompanied by a leisure path for walking and biking. Basketball and sand volleyball courts are available, and the creek itself is open for fishing. There is a shelter house, but it must be reserved. ADA-compliant bathrooms are open seasonally.
Amberleigh Community Park
4715 Vista Ridge Drive, Dublin; 614-410-4700; dublinohiousa.gov
A river overlook and a canoe/kayak rail lend outdoorsy appeal, but Amberleigh also features a unique playground and play village. The park also offers a walking path, a nature area, fishing, a shelter house and restrooms.
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park
1775 Darby Creek Drive, Galloway; 614-370-6254; metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/battelle-darby-creek
This West Side Metro Park has several playgrounds and a 9-acre natural play area near the Indian Ridge Picnic Area with a ravine and creek access. The 7,000-plus-acre park features 14 trails, most of them multiuse. Visitors are also welcome to walk along and explore the Big and Little Darby creeks. A nature center, picnic areas, seasonal ice skating and sledding and, of course, the bison, are also features of the park. Fishing and hunting both are available. Restrooms abound.
Every Kid’s Playground at Liberty Park
2845 Home Road, Powell; 740-881-5432; libertytwp.org
This was the area’s first “universally accessible” playground, full of equipment on which kids of all abilities can play. The playground also has an ADA-compliant shelter house and restrooms. It’s tucked inside a vast green space with soccer fields and trails for walking/running, as well as courts for other sports. In addition, the park features a fishing pond, a walking path and a sledding hill.
3375 Kioka Ave., Upper Arlington; 614-583-5340; upperarlingtonoh.gov/city-parks
A location straight out of Norman Rockwell and a name to match, Fancyburg’s 25 acres include a multiuse path with fitness stations, sports fields, picnic areas, a shelter house, grills and restrooms in addition to its play areas, which feel at once classic and contemporary. It’s also one of (sadly) few places where you can choose between a playground and shuffleboard.
3899 Orders Road, Grove City; 614-277-3050; grovecityohio.gov/parks-and-recreation
This 110-acre park is recreational and educational, thanks to the Century Village historic area with a renovated one-room schoolhouse, log cabin and barn. A space-themed, ADA-compliant Discovery Frontier playground in the main park is ideal for toddlers. And a splash pad and sledding hill make Fryer a year-round outdoor play space. Other amenities include sports fields, trails, catch-and-release fishing and restrooms.
Glacier Ridge Metro Park
9801 Hyland-Croy Road, Plain City; 614-216-8859; metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/glacier-ridge
Glacier Ridge, a sprawling, 1,037-acre farm-turned-park, boasts wetlands, biking and walking trails, horseback riding and disc golf. Play options abound, including a three-section wooden climbing apparatus, a traditional playset, a zip line and a nearby obstacle course that’s suitable for children and adults. The park also features a shelter with a grill and restrooms.
120 W. Goodale St. (Short North), Columbus; 614-645-3300; columbus.gov/goodalepark
Goodale Park might be best known for its elephant-fountain-adorned pond, but don’t let the urban environment fool you. This historic 32.71-acre park bordering the Short North and Victorian Village neighborhoods has playgrounds, a gazebo, walking paths, sports courts and a sledding hill. Portable toilets are available. There is some free parking available within the park; metered streetside spots encircle the area.
Homestead Metro Park
4675 Cosgray Road, Hilliard; 614-216-8859; metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/homestead
Homestead became part of the Metro Parks network in 2015, an acknowledgment that the former Washington Township Park is truly a regional green space. The 44-acre site feels like the country, far from suburban sprawl although easily accessible. There are multiple play areas from which kids can choose, most with different features, including one with an adaptive play area. Fish the 2.5-acre pond; take advantage of the covered bridge, train station replica and caboose; play on sports courts and fields; and enjoy the trails, fitness stations, shelters with grills, amphitheater and 10-acre prairie garden. Restrooms are available.
Huber Village Park
362 Huber Village Blvd., Westerville; 614-901-6500; parks.westerville.org
Planet Westerville at Huber Village Park combines modern features with a classic playground, offering designated areas for ages 2-5 and 6-12. The 27.56-acre venue also has sports fields, a leisure path, a nature area with woodlands and wetlands, a shelter and ADA-compliant restrooms.
Jefferson Community Park
7494 Clark State Road, Gahanna; 614-855-4260; jeffersontownship.org
This 28-acre park is a scenic treat, featuring a fishing pond, multiuse trails, picnic tables and horseshoe pits. The playground got a facelift last year and features state-of-the-art play equipment for varying ages. Restrooms and three shelters are available.
165 N. Parkview Ave., Bexley; 614-559-4300; bexley.org/parks
A mix of natural and play areas are offered at this nearly-40-acre park adjacent to the historic Jeffrey Mansion. There is a playground suitable for ages 2-5, as well as sports fields, nature trails with a boardwalk along Alum Creek, canoe and kayak access, picnic areas with grills, shelter houses and restrooms (typically open April to October). The Bexley Community Pool and the Bexley Historical Society also are located here. Leave the dogs at home, however, as they are not allowed in the park.
Millstone Creek Park
745 N. Spring Road, Westerville; 614-901-6500; parks.westerville.org
Wetlands and a natural play area are complemented by an “inclusive boundless” playground geared for ages 2-12, a boardwalk and a sand pit. This 15.27-acre park also offers athletic courts and fields, walking paths, a gazebo and ADA-compliant restrooms with changing stations.
North Orange Park
7560 Gooding Blvd., Delaware; 740-657-2630; orangetwp.org
This park has a playground with areas designed for ages 2-5 and 5-12; many features are ADA-compliant. Other amenities at this park, adjacent to the North Orange Aquatic Center, include sports courts and fields, walking and nature trails, an open-air shelter with a fireplace, fishing ponds and a sledding hill.
Olentangy River Parklands
600 W. Wilson Bridge Road, Worthington; 614-436-2743; worthington.org
Two playgrounds are available within this scenic, 100-acre park, established in 1974 and situated along the Olentangy River. Both feature equipment surrounded by green space. The park also features a 2-mile multiuse trail, sports courts and fields, and the Winding Adventures Skate Park. Other outdoor activities include a sledding hill and river access for canoes and kayaks.
1069 Jaeger St. (German Village), Columbus; 614-645-3300; columbus.gov/schillerpark
Public art is plentiful, from the statue of park namesake German poet Friedrich von Schiller, to the new Suspension: Balancing Art, Nature, and Culture exhibition, to the amphitheater where Actors’ Theatre of Columbus presents free productions throughout the summer. But Shakespeare isn’t the only play at Schiller. The 23.5-acre park features an extensive playground, along with a walking trail, gardens, a gazebo, a fishing pond, sports fields, a tennis court and a sledding hill.
1121 S. Houk Road, Delaware; 740-203-1810; delawareohio.net/parks-natural-resources/parks/
Known for its monstrous, dinosaur-themed splash pad, Veterans Park in Delaware is worth visiting even if you don’t get wet. The 25-acre space boasts a playground with plenty of climbing options for all ages and a slide that starts inside the head of a giant dinosaur. The park’s visual appeal is top-notch. There is a shaded area, a 1.2-mile trail and abundant picnic tables as well.
Walnut Woods Metro Park
6723 Lithopolis Road, Groveport; 614-357-9375; metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/walnut-woods
The playground, located in the Buckeye Area at this 1,170-acre park, features a natural design that complements the nearby wetlands, trails, dramatic stands of trees and the creek. The shelter, which borders a hiking trail, includes two grills and is ADA accessible. In winter, the low hill, also in the Buckeye Area, is ideal for young sledders. Fishing and canoe/kayak access are available.
3923 N. High St. (Clintonville), Columbus; 614-645-3217; columbus.gov/whetstonepark
The 136.3-acre park, situated along the Olentangy River, features a universally accessible playground, sports courts and fields, a fishing pond, a gazebo, picnic areas, a shelter house, a prairie, river access and a walking trail. The park is located next to the Whetstone Community Center and the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. The park also boasts the 13-acre Columbus Park of Roses (3901 N. High St.; parkofroses.org), which is a lovely spot for a stroll and features two sledding hills.
4414 Broadway, Grove City; 614-277-3050; grovecityohio.gov/parks-and-recreation
This 38-acre park offers two playgrounds: a traditional outdoor play space and an area designed for children with special needs. Windsor Park also has 10 baseball/softball diamonds and the Dream Field for special needs players, as well as sports courts, three shelters/gazebos and restrooms. The Evans Center, which serves older residents, also is located here.
Woodside Green Park
213 Camrose Court, Gahanna; 614-342-4250; gahanna.gov/parks
This 32-acre green space features a really unique amenity: a play area built by a local Girl Scout troop. Kids will find an obstacle course, tunnels, fort building, climbing and more. The park connects to the Big Walnut Trail and has a canoe launch into Big Walnut Creek. Sports fields and courts, a fishing pond, a shelter house and heated restrooms are also available.
1520 Goodale Blvd., Grandview Heights; 614-488-3111; grandviewheights.org
This park sits in the center of Grandview Heights and features a large playground with plenty to do and explore. Other amenities include a multiuse field, paths, a sledding hill, a shelter house with a kitchenette and accessible bathrooms open seasonally.
This story is from the Spring 2021 issue of Columbus Parent.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to the foot golf course at Battelle Darby Creek Park, which is no longer open.